In a dramatic escalation of rhetoric on Wednesday morning, President and Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump said that U.S. military personnel have the go ahead to “shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea.” Trump’s tweet comes after reports that 11 Revolutionary Guard Navy ships were sailing in close proximity to U.S. warships in international waters miles off the coast of Kuwait last week.
Those reports were confirmed later in the week by the U.S. Navy, which released video of the Iranian ships nearing the American battleships. At least one of the Iranian ships had a deck-mounted gun aimed at the U.S. counterparts. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard immediately put the blame on the U.S. Navy, claiming in a statement that the encounter was caused “by the unprofessional and provocative actions of the United States and their indifference to warnings.”
Trump’s tweet also comes only hours after the Revolutionary Guard announced that it had launched the Islamic nation’s first military satellite into orbit. This was a particularly provocative move given that U.S. officials have publicly accused Tehran of using technological advancements in their satellite sector as cover for a program meant to launch nuclear warheads. Iran denies that there is any meaningful connection between the two.
“Iran’s first military satellite, Noor, was launched this morning from the central desert of Iran. The launch was successful and the satellite reached orbit,” Iranian state TV said on Wednesday.
While a breakout of full-scale war between the U.S. and Iran is exceedingly unlikely, the high-powered horseplay in the Gulf shows that this game of military tensions will continue despite the coronavirus pandemic. It is a continuation of tensions that played out late last year, culminating in a U.S. strike against Revolutionary Guard commander Qassim Soleimani and a subsequent missile strike against a U.S. base in Iraq.
This seems to be Iran trying to toy with the U.S. in the Persian Gulf, asserting its own claim of ownership of those waters at a time when the regime is undoubtedly feeling the pinch from all sides. The coronavirus pandemic has wrought untold damage to Iran, and the plummeting price of oil has to be hitting the country hard. What better time to assert yourself militarily, see how prepared the U.S. is to stand its ground (even if the ground happens to be water), and basically show the Iranian people that “we’re not afraid of the Big, Bad Satan.”
Well, Iran had better watch itself. If the strike against Soleimani wasn’t proof enough that they were no longer dealing with Barack Obama, we’re certain that Trump will be happy to teach them that lesson a second time.